Excerpted from Willa Garvenne’s hunt journal
Thirdmonth, Day 2, 1011 A.U.
Sailing Conditions: Overcast, turbulence, aetheric currents stable
Location: 145 klicks out from Ramsgate, WNW, elevation +200 m
The last thing I remember was striking the charging Shrike across its brow. Blood sprayed across my face in a diagonal arc that matched the behemoth’s desperate turn away from my blade. I laughed in triumph.
Prematurely, as it happened. Because that’s not entirely true, is it? The real last thing I remember is what the Shrike did in response to my blow. With a dismissive backhand and a deafening shriek, the behemoth tossed me aside. I collided at speed with a heavy tree trunk. I heard something crunch.
The hunt was over by the time I came to aboard the airship. We had not been victorious, though we’d all survived. The Shrike screamed defiance as the airship caught the upward draft and turned back on a heading to Ramsgate. Even at this distance I could see the bleeding red line I’d left across the behemoth’s browfeathers.
As soon as I’m back on my feet, I plan to find you again, Blood-Brow. And next time I’ll be prepared.
Thirdmonth, Day 15, 1012 A.U.
Conditions: Overcast, turbulence
Location: 147 klicks out from Ramsgate, WNW, elevation +215 m
We hit the drop zone in the hours before dawn, setting down on the far side of the island. The winds weren’t too strong, and the skies were clear – a small blessing on what was sure to be a bloody day. The cold, foggy air struck my face as I surveyed the moonlit horizon, tickling the numb swath of scars I’d earned here a year ago.
It didn’t take long to find the behemoth sign I’d been seeking. Blood-Brow had a distinct and recognizable claw pattern, one I’d seen on my own face every time I looked into the mirror over the last year. A cold shiver ran down my spine when I saw that pattern carved into the trunk of a tree along my path. Right then the behemoth offered the gift of a challenge; in the distance I heard the Shrike’s distinctive shriek cut through the mist.
It was a challenge I was more than ready to accept.
I made sure my new blade — forged from the aetheric power of the many Shrikes I’d slain in preparation for the coming battle — was secure as the rest of the team dropped into the landing zone. I took point and the rest of the team spread out to more easily search the area and ensure the behemoth had no avenue of escape. Even if it took to the air, my allies and I would be sure it paid a painful price for trying to flee.
My team was well-equipped for this fight. I carried the Shrike blade, of course, while Keavon wielded his familiar hammer, Jarica carried a heavy axe, and Davell circled around Blood-Brow to strike at range with razor-sharp chain blades.
Although I was in the lead, the behemoth sensed Davell’s threat and moved to intercept him first. From a distance I could only watch as the Shrike with the distinctive red scar across its brow burst from the woods and caught my ally off-guard with a wicked right hook. The blow knocked Davell to the ground but not before the slayer sent up a flare to warn us all of his location.
We wasted no time closing in on Davell. As Blood-Brow drew back to assess these three new threats — did it recognize me, I wonder? — I dropped to one knee and gave my injured comrade a shot of healing elixir to get him back on his feet. With a nod he leapt to his feet and drew his weapon. That was when the beast turned its baleful gaze on me. The scars on my face tingled as if in remembrance.
I drew my new blade. Heigsketter’s craftsmanship is legendary among the slayers of Ramsgate. Soon Blood-Brow would learn why.
The fight was long, as such battles go. Davell stayed at a distance, striking the Shrike with rapid-fire blows from his chain blades. Meanwhile, Jarica and Keavon closed to flank the behemoth from either side, raining down pain and thunder with every blow of their heavy weapons while artfully dodging the increasingly frantic attacks from the cornered Shrike. And me? I went in for the kill, repeatedly. Three quick slashes and a staggering uppercut deprived Blood-Brow of most of its remaining browfeathers. A horizontal cut deep into its belly splashed gore across the ground as it turned to face me.
And so it went for almost half an hour. Before long our elixirs were gone, our airships were out of supply drops, and the Shrike was bleeding, gasping for air. I raised my blade for the kill strike just as it summoned another surge of aetheric energy from somewhere within its savage heart. Power erupted from the beast as I brought my sword down between Blood-Brow’s glowing eyes.
The aetheric blowback threw me several meters but I rolled into the fall and managed to keep my eyes on the Shrike. Davell offered me a hand up and we cautiously approached the fallen behemoth.
As we watched, its physical form began to break down, the aether inside the Shrike finally freed by its death to return to the greater world. There it would be captured, consumed, or perhaps just dissipate into the sky. But that didn’t matter to me. I’d gotten my payback. I sent up a flare to summon the airship and congratulated my fellow slayers.
It was a good hunt. And a good day not to die.